Hidden away in the corridors of Mercer’s Engineering Science building exists a quaint yet classy operation dedicated to serving high-end cuisine, open to the public. It is also a joint class session for three of the most advanced courses in Mercer’s hospitality program.
Students working toward their A.A.S. degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Institution Management meet in ES 111 Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12-1pm to simulate an authentic gourmet dining room, serving a variety of dishes to real patrons.
With an admission price of only $12, four courses already arrive to your table. As Chef Frank Benowitz, who has arranged this operation for the past 17 years, told The VOICE “With no labor cost…we are able to offer that price tag…using local products, using product from reputable sources ”
Two VOICE reporters visited the on campus restaurant on December 6, when they served California style American regional cuisine, which according to Chef Benowitz is the most popular menu.
As we walked in we were greeted by a hostess and seated quickly in the compact yet well decorated dining room.
To our right was a large glass wall which gave us a full view of the kitchen and the student chefs at work.
The appetizer course started with a flatbread pizza with roasted California pears, prosciutto and goat cheese, followed by a pumpkin soup, and a garden salad. The fresh tasting greens were accompanied by the perfect amount of dressing, tangy olives and a slice of fried brie which gave the whole salad a decadent edge.
The pumpkin soup had the perfect amount of sweetness to it and was an excellent choice for a cold day as warmth radiated from the bowl.
Sophomore Head Cook Lin Simpson told The VOICE “I go out to restaurants a lot… Food-wise this student-run restaurant is excellent.”
Simpson also noted that the culinary professors are serious about food preparation and cleanliness. “We know sanitation is great, our teacher makes sure that we cook the food out and the food is great.”
Sophomore Kathalyn Silverman worked as a server for the day. She is taking a mandatory course for culinary arts students called “Table Service,” which ensures they gain experience both in and out of the kitchen. She conducted her service professionally and with a friendly disposition.
When the entrees were beautiful pieces of culinary artwork. It almost made you feel guilty for eating them, that is until you tasted them. The roasted
stuffed hen in a hunter’s sauce was cooked to perfection. The stuffing was exquisite and the meat itself was tender and served in a
rich sauce. The side of asparaginase was equally delightful.
The other entree option was a poached salmon complemented by a pesto sauce and a subtle addition of pomegranate. The dish satisfied a substantial hunger with a fresh taste. There was also a family style side of baked potatoes with a miso cream sauce.
Chef Benowitz said, “Everything has been fabricated by our students in our meat fabrication, poultry fabrication, fish fabrication class, for our the guests to enjoy, prepared by students in our American Regional class.”
The dessert course was prepared by Professor Doug Fee’s Hospitality 247 class. The dessert options included a cheesecake with fruit and a molten chocolate cake with a side of vanilla i
ce cream. The confections provided a filling conclusion to a satisfying and well-presented meal.
The VOICE highly recommends this service to students and anyone in the community looking for quality food, friendly service at a price that cannot be beaten.